In case anyone finds it useful I want to share my (long) experience of invisalign. I should have had braces as a child but was too stubborn to wear them so my bite was left untreated. As an adult I was very unhappy about how I looked when I smiled, especially with my upper teeth which were very overcrowded. One of my incisors was pushed back behind the neighboring teeth, and one was twisted at a weird angle. I really didn’t want to have braces though, so was generally pretty depressed about my teeth. My dentist suggested that I have invisalign, and after hearing his sales pitch about how invisalign can move your teeth with invisible trays that nobody notices I thought this was the miracle solution for my problem. I paid $5500 and started the treatment. This was the start of 2 years of disappointment with invisalign and with my dentist.
The first problem was the attachments (‘buttons’) that are added to your teeth to help the aligners grip your teeth. These are white bumps which they put on the surface of your teeth. They make the aligner much more visible. My dentist only told me about these when I was sitting in his chair having them fitted to my teeth! The whole point of invisalign for me was that it would not be noticeable, but once you have these attachments people do notice them. I had about 45 aligners for my upper teeth, which I made sure I wore all the time except when eating. Taking the aligners out to eat and then cleaning your teeth after to put them back in is a major pain in the butt. You have to plan when you’re going to eat, and it makes it very difficult to do things like day trips to the park/beach etc, or to eat on the run/snack between meals.
I would have been able to overlook the inconvenience and the fact that invisalign is not invisible if the results had been good. However, when I was about half way through the treatment I noticed that the aligners were not fitting very well, with little gaps between the aligner and the teeth. Whenever I pointed these out to my dentist he said he thought the treatment was still going well, but that I might need to have a few extra aligners at the end to get the teeth completely straight.
As I continued with the treatment the gaps between the teeth and the aligners became bigger, and it was obvious that some of my teeth were not moving as they should be (this actually makes the aligners even more visible, because saliva bubbles build up in the gaps, which obviously looks bad). When I finally finished all 45 aligners, the teeth had moved a lot from where they started and they did look a little bit better, but they were still a long way from being straight. So I had new impressions taken and had new aligners made, and was disappointed to discover that I needed to work my way through 25 additional aligners!!! They call these additional aligners refinements.
When I had reached refinement number 8, I noticed gaps appearing again, and I could see some of the teeth were again not moving as they should be. My dentist tried to encourage me to continue wearing the aligners, but by this time I had lost confidence in him and I decided to stop the treatment. I went to an orthodontist and got regular braces (another $4000) to finish straightening my teeth. After 6 months I had my braces removed and finally have a nice smile!!
The major lesson I learned from this is that you should go to an orthodontist to have your teeth straightened and not your regular dentist. A lot of dentists now offer invisalign treatment, and they’ll happily take your money even if invisalign is not the best treatment option for you. Invisalign can definitely move teeth. However certain types of movement, such as rotating teeth or aligning teeth that are very misaligned, are difficult with invisalign. Invisalign is great for teeth that are already close to being straight, but for more serious problems braces might be necessary. You should have treatment with an orthodontist, who offers both invisalign and braces, and can give you a qualified and unbiased opinion on whether your teeth can be treated with invisalign or you need braces. I wish I had gone to an orthodontist initially, as it would have saved me time and money.
My major concern about braces was the fact that they look bad, but I was actually happier wearing braces than wearing invisalign. I felt very awkward in social situations when wearing the invisalign aligners, because people do notice that you have a strange piece of plastic covering your teeth (especially if you have the attachments). Wearing braces is also not fun, but at least with braces everyone knows what they are so there’s no confusion. Braces also move your teeth more quickly so the treatment time is shorter.
A lot of people have posted positive reviews about invisalign, so I don’t want to be completely negative about it. My teeth did move a lot during my 2 years of invisalign and I’m sure that I would have needed more than 6 months of braces if I had not had the invisalign first, so it wasn’t a complete waste of time for me. However I’m sure the whole process would have been quicker (and cheaper) if I’d had braces from the beginning. If you’re thinking of invisalign please please please please make sure you go an orthodontist (not a general dentist) to see if you’re a suitable candidate, and if you start treatment with invisalign be prepared to make some lifestyle changes to accommodate all the issues with eating/cleaning.